Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Education: a sacred trust

Recently a Republican member of the Kansas legislature reportedly asked if public schools are simply a “jobs program” disguised as education. Behind this awkward question there is a deeper issue: namely, what is the purpose of education?

The USD 259 Board of Education is wrestling with this question in a difficult time as state funding for our schools is being trimmed to the bone, and pressure to privatize custodial services and reduce staff intensifies. To their credit members of the Board of Education have refused to take hasty action. There has been a full house at the last two BOE meetings. People know that the future of our schools depends on the actions the board will take soon.

In my book education is a sacred trust. The purposes of education are to equip students to become knowledgeable citizens and contributing members of society who are able to use their gifts and talents in ways that will improve their lives and the quality of life for others. Schools are given the task of educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Thus, education has several goals: teaching competence, modeling integrity, cultivating a culture of mutual respect, and developing good citizens. Building good character is perhaps the most important purpose of education. It takes people, buildings, and resources to accomplish these goals. Education is and always has been a labor intensive enterprise.

Therefore, the means that we employ in our ministry of education have to be consistent with the ends we hope to achieve. A minimum requirement is respecting the enterprise of education, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone, and paying teachers, librarians, custodians, nurses, administrators, aides, and other staff adequate compensation.

Is education as “jobs program”? No. Education is a sacred trust.

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